South Africa’s Callous Commodification of Rhinos is at the Root of their Current Misery

by Aug 5, 2010Rhinos

It is a foregone conclusion that at the very least, 300 rhinos will be die horrible and painful deaths in South Africa in 2010.

South Africa is currently entrusted with the vast majority of the world’s population of rhinos, but at the same time it has become abundantly clear that not only are rhinos in South Africa facing one of their worst threats ever as a species, but they are literally under siege. More rhinos have been killed illegally in South Africa during 2008, 2009 and 2010 than at any other time in the last 90 years. South Africa is quite literally the last bastion for rhinos in the world but the colossal growth of rhino killings (both legal and illegal, and the concomitant insufficient anti‐poaching capacity and poor record keeping, means that rhinos are facing untold suffering, exploitation and death and has the potential to once again threaten the survival of the entire species.

Almost daily we read, see or hear about rhino killings. There is no doubt that ordinary South Africans are horror-struck and outraged at the suffering rhinos are enduring. Yet astonishingly, the perpetrators caught for these unspeakable acts of cruelty are never prosecuted under the Animal Protection Act but rather for the possession of illegal ‘wildlife products’.

“We should not be surprised that welfare and anti-cruelty legislation has never been invoked because treating rhinos as if they are merely a tradable commodity is the cornerstone of South Africa’s approach to ‘conservation’. There seems something deeply unethical and inappropriate about supposedly championing rhino conservation and protection but at the same time driving trophy hunting, trade in rhinos, the sale of rhino from national and provincial Parks to known ‘put and take’ hunting outfitters and the stockpiling of their horns by government and private individuals” said Animal Rights Africa (ARA) spokesperson Michele Pickover.

Undoubtedly that there needs to be a global initiative to tackle the insatiable illegal market for rhino horn in the East but equally South Africa needs to recognize its culpability in bolstering the market through trophy hunting and rhino horn stockpiling. It’s morally and ecologically bankrupt and rampant ‘consumptive and sustainable use’ policies are trumping ethical conservation, biodiversity protection and concern for the welfare of wildlife. This is literally translating into a war against wildlife. Wild animal, who were victims and suffered under colonialism and apartheid, now continue to be victims under sustainable use policies, which are turning living beings into mere commodities.

“ARA is extremely concerned about our government’s uncritical support for the ethically and scientifically flawed process of ‘sustainable use’ which has no regard for who rhinos and no understanding of their social complexities, relationships or culture. It is just a euphemism for unsustainable killing, suffering and massive exploitation. ARA urges the South African public to speak out against these current policies” said Pickover.

South Africa remains the worlds’ top destination for the hunting of captive raised lions and is also the premier market for those wishing to shoot rhinos.The hunting permit system has been repeatedly used in recent years to launder horn into the illegal market. The government says it is trying to limit the number of rhinos hunted illegally. Yet despite the abuses within the industry, selling rhino hunts to foreigners remains a growing business.

It is therefore not surprising that it is within this context of overt ‘consumptive use’ that poaching of rhinos in South Africa has reached the highest levels in decades. In the short space of 19 months, poaching of rhinoceroses in South Africa has accelerated to a rate almost six times higher than that of the previous eight years and at the same time South Africa has become the conduit of most of the rhino horns leaving the African continent.

Exactly a year ago, through the release of a special report on rhinos entitled, Under Siege: Rhinoceroses in South Africa, ARA alerted people to the alarming situation in relation to rhinos. Since then the killings have not only continued but have risen. The recommendations of that report remain unchanged and need to be restated. There is an urgent need to:

– Open the government policy of ‘sustainable use’ and trophy hunting to public debate.

– Impose an immediate moratorium on all capture, sale, translocation and hunting of rhino in South Africa.

– Burn rhino horn stockpiles.

The Report is available on:

ARA Contact person:

Michele Pickover +27 (0) 82 253 2124

ARA email –